A judge has accused an international firm of trying to ‘deliberately manipulate’ its costs budget in an attempt to stop the court making a costs management order.

The Honourable Mr Justice Coulson (pictured) said Squire Patton Boggs had provided a ‘wholly unreliable’ costs budget with a deliberate absence of any explanation for a huge increase in costs incurred and estimated.

The firm, representing claimant CIP Properties in a dispute with Galliford Try Infrastructure, claimed to have incurred costs of £4.2m, with estimated further costs of £5m. Taking into consideration other sums which had been excluded, the total claim was for £9.5m.

Coulson capped the total incurred and estimated costs at £4.28m. The £5.3m reduction is believed to be one of the biggest cuts made to a budget by a judge since the new era of proportionality, signalled by the Jackson reforms, began in April 2013.

In contrast, the defendant, represented by international firm CMS Cameron McKenna, claimed around £4.5m in total costs. This figure was reduced to £4.23m.

The judge said: ‘The claimant’s costs both incurred and estimated are disproportionate to the complexity and value of this claim. In my view they bear no relation to what is required to be spent to advance this case in a proportionate way. There is no reason – and no reason has been put forward – why the claimant’s overall costs figures should not be similar to that of the defendant.’

Coulson said the £18m building defects claim was ‘relatively straightforward’ with little need for a lengthy chronological bundle.

He noted that the claimant now says that, over the course of the past year, it has incurred an additional £2.5m by way of costs, despite the fact that disclosure has not been completed and that work on witness statements, experts’ meetings and reports, and other matters, has not yet started.

The claimant said it had spent £631,000 on pleadings, estimating that would rise by a further £442,000 – a figure the judge said was ‘inexplicable’. He reduced total spending on pleadings to £500,000.

Disclosure costs incurred and estimated were set by the claimant firm at almost £1.3m, a sum reduced by Coulson to £350,000.

The hearing, held last month in the technology and construction section of the High Court, was the second time the parties had spent a day arguing over costs. In October last year, a case management conference rejected the claimant’s argument that the court had no discretion to make costs management orders.

The Gazette has contacted Squire Patton Boggs for a comment.